Lewis Hamilton addresses Max Verstappen’s ‘illegal driving’ jibe as fierce rivalry finds new life

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton chose not to make too much of Max Verstappen’s jibe following the Australian Grand Prix, where the Dutchman felt he had been forced off the track by the seven-time world champion.

In many ways, it was a throwback to one of the fiercest rivalries in recent times, as both Hamilton and Verstappen were fighting for the same stretch of tarmac at the start of the race in Melbourne.

Both drivers undoubtedly would have appreciated the fact that there was no contact between their cars on this occasion, though.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso. Credit: autocar.com
Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso. Credit: autocar.com

Verstappen initially felt that Hamilton had illegally pushed him off the track, but the matter seemed to have resolved when the two met during the post-race podium celebration.

Hamilton personally felt he had done nothing wrong, and Verstappen chose not to mention it to the seven-time world champion.

“I thought it was pretty decent,” Hamilton said.

“I mean, he braked early and I braked late and I was fully up the inside and I think we both left space for each other.

“I didn’t run him off the road and he didn’t turn in on me so we didn’t touch and that’s racing.”

Hamilton hasn’t got the strongest car on the grid by any stretch of the imagination, but he will be buoyed by the fact that his P2 finish has catapulted him into fourth spot in the drivers’ standings.

“[The] result was very unexpected,” Hamilton said.

“Getting a second and a third in qualifying yesterday just really blew us all away and [was] a huge boost of energy throughout the team.

“So that meant today we had a shot at trying to at least overtake Max for a second and so we both got ahead, which was amazing to have a Mercedes one-two for a second.

“Obviously he came sailing by at one stage but a really entertaining race and had a really good battle with Fernando, which was awesome.”

Hamilton paid tribute to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso showing terrific pace in the corners, an area he felt they are still ahead of Mercedes in.

“I think Fernando was a little bit quicker this afternoon,” Hamilton said.

“I think he was in my tow so I think we are probably slightly quicker on the straight and he was quicker through all the corners.

“We definitely have some performance to find. It definitely wasn’t easy keeping them at bay and keeping them out of the DRS zone.

Lewis Hamilton. Credit: sportstar.com
Lewis Hamilton. Credit: sportstar.com

“But it was really quite interesting just to see where we were lacking and where we were good and so there’s lots of positives to take from today.

“We do naturally need to add on some performance. I mean, they’ve been ahead of us for two races but for us to somehow still finish ahead is pretty awesome. So I’ll definitely take it.”

Read more: Blood-soaked arm helps F1 spectator save fiancee from getting hit on head by metre-long debris at Australian GP

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